Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman
Trash Talking

By Beth Critton and Bob Proudman
From the early era of backpacking—when food often came in cans, which were generally disposed of by smashing and "burning" or burying them near a campsite—to the modern era of lightweight, freeze-dried food wrapped in foil and plastic, trash disposal has generally been left to trail users. If they don't do it properly, besides the impact to the environment, trash becomes a disheartening blight on the natural and primitive aspects of the Trail and a discouraging management headache for Trail volunteers and their partners.

The Appalachian Mountain Club was in the forefront of promoting the "Carry In–Carry Out" principle among backcountry users In the 1970s. It certainly takes far less effort to carry out empty containers than it took to carry in full ones, and responsible day-hikers and backpackers do just that. 

But no one wants to carry trash for long distances. And some hikers who would not be the first to despoil a natural area may follow suit if others have left trash in a fire-ring, or they come across trash or discarded furniture and appliances dumped at a road crossing. Hikers who consume food and beverages left by "Trail angels" may not feel 
"Trail angel" cooler
responsible for carrying out the empty containers—an empty cooler becomes a handy trash receptacle.

ATC, the agencies, and the clubs promote Leave No Trace and encourage keeping the Trail in as natural a condition as possible. Some shelters along the A.T. have been moved farther from road crossings and bootleg parking areas blocked to reduce partying and the resulting trash. Regular clean-ups of trash left at shelters or elsewhere, the frequent presence of ridgerunners, volunteers, and club members on the Trail and at overnight sites, along with regular patrols of parking areas and trouble spots by law enforcement officers and land-managing agencies all help to mitigate these issues.

 Use of Trail lands by increasingly large numbers of people seeking respite from city heat and looking for a place to fish, swim, and picnic created a difficult and challenging situation at Bulls Bridge in Kent, CT in recent years—made even more challenging by language barriers, complicated land ownership, unhappy neighbors and townspeople, and overwhelmed volunteers. 
Progress has been and continues to be made in CT, thanks to a partnership among the stakeholders, spearheaded by the dedicated volunteers of the AMC-Conn. Chapter Trails Committee, and with a plan developed by NPS-Appalachian Trail rangers in consultation with the club, the Town, state agencies, and FirstLight Power Resources. The article below by AMC-Conn. Trails Committee Chair Dave Boone has lessons for all of us.

With usage increasing, ATC and its maintaining clubs will need to be proactive in addressing the proliferation of trash on the Trail through a combination of vigilance, removal, careful consideration of policy decisions (i.e., installation of trash receptacles at Trailheads; removal of fire rings), signage, and education. 

Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations

Bulls Bridge Efforts Recognized by Community

By Dave Boone, Trails Chair of the AMC-Connecticut Chapter

The Bulls Bridge area in South Kent features a historic covered bridge, peaceful forests, and beautiful cascades and pools of the Housatonic River. A blue-blazed access trail leads to the Appalachian Trail, which continues to follow the high bank of the river to the junction where the Ten Mile River flows into the Housatonic. These lovely features that attract hikers and local walkers, have, over the years, also appealed to an increasingly large nonhiker population.
Two years ago, nonhiker use exploded to the point where the resource was in great danger of being destroyed by literally hundreds of people swimming, grilling, partying, dancing, and littering this beautiful and fragile area. Tons of garbage were removed by Trails Committee volunteers and AMC ridgerunners. The situation had become critical, and the local residents and Town leaders rightfully demanded that something be done.
(Read the full article here)


Planning and Implementation

Developing and implementing a plan to deal with the problems at Bulls Bridge required a cooperative approach, taking into account the perspectives of all those involved Appalachian Trail volunteers, ATC, NPS, local residents and town selectmen, state agency partners, the power company operating a facility at the site, and people using  the area. 

A risk assessment was conducted using a GAR (green, amber, red) model. Safety concerns, resource protection, trash removal, parking, visitor education and enforcement were among the issues that had to be addressed. 

An operational plan was developed and is being implemented. It includes parking restrictions, signage in English and Spanish, volunteers stationed onsite to explain appropriate use to visitors and monitor the area, garbage removal, and regular patrols and law enforcement as needed.

While the situation has not been resolved, conditions have improved at the site. AMC-CT Trails Chair Dave Boone says, "The increased presence and efforts continue at Bulls Bridge, but 2014 has seen a vast improvement compared to the recent past."

Suggestions from a Hiker

Hiker Irad Carmi provided the following comments to ATC earlier this year. He believes that trash problems could be significantly reduced if hikers knew there would a place to dispose of it every three to four days.

"Sadly, A.T. shelters’ fire rings are used as garbage incinerators. I suspect that under the 'broken window' theory, seeing the partially burnt plastic wrappers, batteries, and such encourages hikers to add their own.

"I fully subscribe to the Leave No Trace ethic, and strongly believe in hiker education and awareness. However, since the scale of the Trail garbage disposal problem is significant," he offers these suggestions:
  • Where there are already bear-safe garbage dumpsters at road crossings or federal facilities, mark the locations on A.T. maps and guides.
  • Where there are large gaps between disposal sites, place trash receptacles that would be managed by volunteers or agencies.
  • Place signs in shelters asking hikers to not burn their garbage, while informing them of the nearest available place to dispose of it.
Boundary Blurb 

Nicole Wooten has left the ATC staff to work on a masters degree in environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry. We wish Nicole all the best as she pursues her education!

Ryan Seltzer joins the ATC team as corridor stewardship coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic region. He is excited to serve alongside the Trail clubs and volunteers in preserving the sensitive corridor in the region. He studied at James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia and has a background in natural resources management.  

At JMU, he started backpacking and developed a passion for the Appalachian Trail. In 2009, Ryan completed a thru-hike. 

He will be returning to Boiling Springs, PA where his grandmother and grandfather purchased their first home 60 years ago. In his free time Ryan enjoys traveling the country, visiting farmers markets, attending live music events and participating in almost any activity related to the outdoors.

Ryan can be reached at
Carry In - Carry Out
The Appalachian Mountain Club promoted the principle of Carry In-Carry Out to hikers in the early 1970s. Some of the original signs developed then are still in use, as depicted above.

Who Owns the Trash?

The hiker who leaves it in a fire ring? The Trail club and volunteers who are responsible for the shelter? The land-managing agency? 

The initial responsibility, of course lies with whoever generated it, but once it’s been dropped or dumped on Trail lands, the Trail partners need to take ownership and see that it is quickly cleaned up and disposed of properly. 

Otherwise, it acts as a magnet for more trash to accumulate, attracts animals and insects, may cause pollution, and negates the ideal of the ”Trail experience,” where a hiker is part of the natural environment with “a sense of remoteness and detachment from civilization.”

These efforts are challenging, especially with declining agency budgets and manpower shortages and an aging volunteer force. How can we best meet the challenges?

Comments and suggestions are welcome – send them to

Before and after photos: Days of heavy rain caused a section of treadway (which had been located over an old dump) to wash away and expose trash. The maintainer removed the trash as soon as he was aware of it. The club is addressing the erosion and investigating longer term solutions.


Family Hiking Day

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is looking to partner with organizations to lead hikes on the Appalachian Trail for Family Hiking Day on September 27, in conjunction with National Public Lands Day.

If your club is leading a hike over the weekend of September 27 and would like to promote it as part of Family Hiking Day, please contact Tip Ray at  

Also, check out this list of tips for leading a successful family hike. 

Hiking through History
2015 ATC Biennial 

The 2015 Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Biennial Conference, "Hiking through History," cohosted by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Mountain Club of Maryland will be held July 17-24, 2015 at the campus of Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA.  (Click here to view a video.)

If you would like to conduct a workshop or give a presentation at the  Conference, please fill out this (very short) form (PDFDOC)  and e-mail it to

We are seeking volunteers to help with the conference planning, to lead hikes and excursions, to help with registration, and many other needs. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete and return this form.

Volunteer Toolkit

A.T. club leaders, Trail volunteers, and others interested in Trail management will find a wealth of information at

The Volunteer Leadership Handbook found on that page provides an overview of the unique cooperative management of the Trail and describes resources and programs available to assist the Trail clubs.

Subscribe to The Register

First published in April 1978, The Register is intended for Appalachian Trail volunteers, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail. 

Subscribe to The Register (and other ATC newsletters) at  or send a message to with "subscribe" in the subject line and with your first and last name and e-mail address in the body of the message. 

Please forward this issue or provide this information to anyone who might be interested in subscribing. 

Volunteer of the Month

Henry Edmonds of the AMC-CT Trails Committee first learned about the A.T. from his scoutmaster and uncle, who had helped construct the original trail in CT. He spent time hiking the Trail in the region during the late ‘70s.

In 1983, after the A.T. land-acquisition program began, Henry came across two people flagging the corridor boundary. He asked if he could help, and thus began an A.T. volunteer career.

(Read more about Henry here


2014 ATC Meetings

Volunteer Leadership Meeting
August 8-10
Shepherdstown, WV

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
October 18
Asheville, NC

Virginia Regional Partnership Committee
October 25
Location TBD

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
October 25
Harrisburg, PA

ATC Stewardship Council
Oct. 30-Nov. 1
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Board of Directors
Oct. 31-Nov. 1
Shepherdstown, WV

New England Regional Partnership Committee
November 22
Crawford Notch, NH
The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

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